SDT: Michael James Stibbard
- Application 10823-2011
- Admitted 1978
- Hearing 22 February 2012
- Reasons 13 March 2012
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £2,000.
In breach of rule 32(7) of the Solicitors Account Rules 1998, the respondent had failed to reconcile his client account since 31 May 2010; in breach of rule 22(1) of the 1998 rules, there was a cash shortage of £4,997.44 on the client account; in breach of rule 7, he had failed to remedy the breaches promptly upon discovery; in breach of rule 34, he had failed to produce accounting records to the Solicitors Regulation Authority; in breach of rule 35, he had failed to file his accountant’s report for the year ending 30 June 2010 and due on 31 December 2010; in breach of rule 20.05 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 he had failed to co-operate with the SRA; and in breach of rule 1.04 of the code, he had failed to act in the best interests of his clients by his delays in registering their title at the Land Registry.
The SDT said that it was a sad but uncomplicated case. The respondent had been a solicitor for 34 years. There was no suggestion that he had been dishonest. He had asserted that he was suffering from mental health problems but had provided no medical evidence in support. The SDT considered the allegations which had been found proven against him (seven out of eight) including one of breach of core duty to be too serious to allow the award of a reprimand but not sufficiently serious for suspension or strike-off. It was concerned both by his treatment of his clients and his attitude to his regulator and considered that a fine would be appropriate. In considering the level of fine the SDT had taken into account the background to the case which was a collapsing sole practice. Both the respondent and his practice had run into the sand and, accordingly, the fine imposed by the SDT – £2,000 – was somewhat lower than it would otherwise have been.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £18,000.